It’s without a doubt that the feature race at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide was one of the craziest V8 Supercars races to date, however I seem to be one of the few labelling it “Crazy” rather than a “Joke”. Hopefully this explains why the Clipsal 500’s thrid race wasn’t a complete joke.
V8 Superfans editor Jordie Peters talked to Nick Percat about the race and have included his thoughts too. While there was a lot of confusion over the race start, I will focus on the fuel drop rule instead.
The Facts: During certain races there is a required amount of fuel that must be put into the car during the race, this is often referred to the as the “minimum fuel drop”. The rule came about as a way to combat the engine disparity that was found amongst manufacturers early on in the Car Of The Future project. For last Sunday’s Clipsal 500 feature race that minimum fuel drop was 140 litres. This means that it would require a minimum of two pit stops as a V8 Supercar’s fuel tank is only 120 litres.
Where it Went Wrong: So the rule means well and it is a rather simple rule, here is where some teams got confused. The race was had a delayed start, red flag, and numerous Safety Car periods which meant the race wasn’t running ‘on-schedule’. By that I mean that the race was not going to finish by the time it had to, so the race became time certain. Every race in the V8 Supercars calendar, apart from Bathurst, must finish by a certain time. This is normally achievable unless there are delays such as red flags. As the race was going to become time certain, teams thought they would be exempt from the minimum fuel drop rule, however there was nothing in the rule book that excluded them from that requirement, instead it said that if it wasn’t completed a time penalty would be incurred.
Why it is a Good Rule: The rule is good. Simply said, it is a good, well meaning rule. It came about as the result of some new engines in the Car Of The Future project consuming more fuel than others and as a way to level the playing field V8 Supercars came up with the rule. It also means teams have no excuses to lean out their engines to save fuel, which in-turn damages the engine and increases costs. Keeping the rule in place during a race that goes time certain is also right. It means that teams who pit early to keep their options open aren’t put on the back foot by teams who don’t even bother stopping in the hope that the race will go time certain and they won’t have to.
I asked the race winner if the rule should be changed.
“No I don’t think so. The rule is there to give all engine manufactures an even playing field.” Said Percat
How the Rule could be Improved: The rule could be scaled to match the actual race distance of the time certain race. For example; only 155km of the 250km was completed, which is only 62% of the scheduled distance. This means that in this adjusted rule only 62% of the required fuel (86.8L) would need to be put in the car.
” It could be scaled but at the Clipsal 500 all the teams knew the rule, so if they all took the approach of getting the fuel in, many of them wouldn’t have been penalised.”
Ultimately why the race wasn’t a joke: The rule was the same for everyone! Every team (I’d hope) knew the rules. Some teams played the strategies around that rule better than others, there was no better example than Nick Percat and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport. They stopped early for fuel because they knew the race would almost certainly go time certain.
“Yep that was the exact plan [to stop early]. We kept sacrificing our track position (which was actually very good) to put fuel in knowing the race was time certain. We could have run in the top 5 all day but that wouldn’t have helped the end result.” Percat told me.
“I knew I was leading as we sat in pit lane for the break due to the Lightning, I knew I had a fast car and just needed to keep it clean. The final lap was amazing. I was taking it all in and enjoying the battle with Fabian.”
“I wasn’t sure if he was right on fuel, I was told he was so I was racing him hard to make sure I crossed the line first. No way was I winning the race finishing second on road!”